New Resource on Donor Insemination Now Available
July 26, 2010
Know someone conceived through donor insemination (DI)? Thinking of expanding your family through DI? There’s a new resource available from COLAGE that you should check out. Through my connection with COLAGE, I’ve had the privilege to meet many amazing children, youth and adults who have one or more LGBTQ parents (COLAGErs as COLAGE calls them). One of these amazing people, Jeff DeGroot, just completed work on the COLAGE Donor Insemination Guide. • You can also order a copy of the Guide here. The Guide includes resources for people conceived through DI, their parents, and professionals who work with them (like doctors and teachers). Jeff is one of the first DI COLAGErs to be conceived openly by gay parents and I recently got the chance to chat with him about his experiences creating this resource. Let’s start with a very basic question. For those folks unfamiliar with the terminology, what is a “DI COLAGEr?” Great question, a COLAGEr is someone with a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or queer (LGBTQ) parent. A DI COLAGEr is someone who was born through donor insemination (DI) and has a LGBTQ parent. The Guide includes resources for DI COLAGErs, parents, future parents and professionals working with DI COLAGErs. What kind of response have you gotten since its release? The response has been wonderful, especially from parents and professionals. Even before I started writing the guide, parents would frequently approach me and ask me various questions about my experience being a DI COLAGEr and how they should handle various situations with their children. Now that the guide is complete, I can provide these parents with a resource that captures the life experiences of hundreds of LGBTQ families expanded through DI. Parents appear to appreciate this insight and I have been humbled by a number of kind emails and notes. Professionals in the fertility industry have also been extremely supportive. On several occasions, people working in this field have remarked that this guide fills a much needed niche. Overall, it has been a wonderful experience to take part in a project that is benefiting others. The COLAGE community includes people born through DI and others who were maybe adopted or who were born through a different-sex relationship. What unique experiences do DI COLAGErs face as compared to other COLAGErs? At COLAGE we often talk about how we are all COLAGErs, but that we all have different layers to our identity. Being born through DI is another layer that brings with it its own set of blessings and challenges. First of all, all DI COLAGErs have a donor. As DI COLAGErs, we all must decide what this relationship means to us; even if this is a person we will never have the chance to meet in our lives. Also, we all must figure out how to explain our origins. Unfortunately, the topic of insemination is often considered taboo and can be embarrassing for someone of any age to explain. As with all COLAGErs, we also must explain our families in a world that does not always accept LGBT people and the families they create. DI COLAGErs face the specific challenges of explaining either how they have a "donor" who is unknown or a "donor" who is not their "dad." These kinds of situations can lead to questions such as: "Who is your dad? You can't just have two moms." Or, "How can that man be your "father," but not be part of our family?" This Guide is the product of a year’s worth of work, right? Tell me about that process. Yes, the guide was the culmination of a nine month fellowship I did with COLAGE. The entire experience was truly life changing. I got the chance to lead workshops for COLAGErs around the country, work on court briefs and handle media enquiries in addition to the work I did on the DI Guide. The actual process of creating the guide started this past fall when I created two surveys, one for DI COLAGErs and one for their parents. I also did a number of one-on-one interviews with DI COLAGErs, parents and professionals working in the fertility industry. When I got the survey results back in mid-January of this year I also conducted several discussion groups with youth and adults born through donor insemination. Finally, in early March I began writing and had a fully edited draft ready to go to the designer by mid-April. I never imagined putting something like this together would have so many steps and be so time consuming! In the Guide you explain that the most common advice DI COLAGErs have for prospective parents is “be open” – tell me more about that. Unfortunately, historically the process of donor insemination has been secretive. Fifty years ago, women who were inseminated were told by their doctors to forget the procedure had occurred and pretend that the child they bore was their husbands. Of course this was long before sperm banks even considered selling sperm to unmarried women or lesbians. And, obviously, when LGBTQ parents have a child through DI it is often harder to conceal the fact that insemination occurred, but there is still the same often difficult to handle reality that someone outside your family helped you create your child. Sometimes this can lead to parents being less than forthright with their DI COLAGEr children about their origins. DI COLAGErs often are scared to ask questions about their donor because they do not want to hurt their parents so it is a good idea for parents to make it abundantly clear to their children that they can ask whatever questions they like about how they came to be. You are part of the first generation of DI COLAGErs to be conceived openly by gay parents. You describe this generation as “pioneers.” What did you learn about your fellow “pioneers” throughout your work on the Guide? How different we all are. The range of experiences within this consistency is vast. Many of us were on our own islands, so to speak, with little or no contact with any other donor conceived people. Because of this, we all had to figure out how to navigate various circumstances on our own and we all seemed to do this in various ways. For example, some of us embrace the mystery that is our biological father, while others of us are saddened by this perceived absence in our lives. We also have all different family formations. I have two moms and an anonymous donor so it was wonderful to learn about families that were completely different from my own. What did you enjoy most about working on this project? Being able to create a tangible resource for LGBTQ families. I love working with youth at workshops and I do see the impact it has on these children, but there is something special about putting in months of work and being able to hold the finished product in your hand.